Elections a good time to reassess priorities for 7th administration

Solly Phetoe in the General Secretary of COSATU. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo / Independent Newspapers.

Solly Phetoe in the General Secretary of COSATU. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo / Independent Newspapers.

Published May 27, 2024


By Solly Phetoe

Elections are an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the outgoing administration and to spell out priorities for the incoming administration.

The challenges facing South Africa are complex and at times daunting. They require partnerships between government, led by the ANC, and business, labour and society.

It is important that the right foundations are put in place. All too often politics is treated as a zero-sum game at great cost to the poor and working class.

Most peculiarly we have seen the DA, Action SA and other parties, preaching that the way to grow the economy is to slash the meagre wages of workers and scrap the protections and rights they enjoy. Of course, they don’t apply this philosophy of austerity to the wealthy.

COSATU has seen that the most sustainable approach to growing the economy and overcoming society’s challenges, is to ensure that workers have a seat at the table, the state’s resources are invested in uplifting working class communities, and the obstacles to growing the economy are tackled through partnerships with business and labour.

This approach has worked with great success in many countries, including Sweden, Norway, China and Vietnam.

Opinion polls point to a victory for the ANC in the May 29th.

What are the key priorities that the incoming 7th administration led by President Cyril Ramaphosa should focus on to ensure we build upon the positive momentum started in the 6th administration?

Ensuring the economy has reliable and affordable electricity by accelerating the impressive work underway to ramp up the maintenance of Eskom’s generation fleet, bring on board new generation, and rapidly expand transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Accelerating similar measures to modernise our ports and to secure our freight railway. This is key to boosting the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors, key sources of jobs and taxes.

This equally applies to Metro Rail, which is needed to transport 10 million urban commuters timeously.

Actioning the announcement by government to overhaul of the mining rights application system to unlock billions of rands in mining investments and 1000s of jobs.

Similar interventions at other embattled SOEs, e.g. the Post Office and Post Bank, DENEL, SABC and most critically our many struggling municipalities, in particular in rural areas where service delivery has been under severe pressure.

Accelerating the work of the industrial master plans, covering such jobs rich sectors as poultry, sugar, clothing and textiles, motor manufacturing, furniture, medical supplies.

Some of these master plans are showing impressive results with an increase in stock of locally produced clothes up by 50% by the major retailers, a 25% increase in locally produced vehicles for exports, and strategic support given to clothing factories and emerging sugar farmers among others.

Enhancing strategic opportunities with key markets including the US under AGOA, the European Union under the EPA, the BRICS nations and most importantly the African Continent and SADC through the AfCTA.

This must be accompanied by a review of and a drastic increase in industrial financing and export incentives for key sectors, emerging businesses and industries, and BBBEE owned businesses.

Anchoring public and the private procurement upon localisation to support and grow local companies, production companies and jobs. This needs to be accompanied by a mass buy local campaign aimed at produced clothes, food, furniture, appliances and cars.

Skills development programmes need to be overhauled, and in particular rolled out to young people and our 11 million unemployed compatriots.

The skills we produce must be linked to the needs of the economy of today and tomorrow. This includes the types of skills provided by schools, colleges and universities.

Whilst we grow the economy and create jobs, it is critical we continue to extend support for the unemployed. This includes raising the SRD Grant, which has been an invaluable lifeline to 8 million persons, to the food poverty line and using it as a foundation for a universal basic income grant.

Massively expand the Presidential Employment Stimulus to 2 million active participants to help young people enter the labour market.

Employers need to pay workers a living wage. This will enable workers to buy the food, transport and other essential items of life, boost productivity and create the customers businesses need to buy their goods. This includes reducing the obscene wage gap.

Relief must be provided to workers, the majority of whom are drowning in debt. On the 1 September the Two Pot Pension Reforms driven by COSATU will come into effect providing relief to millions of struggling workers, injecting stimulus into the economy whilst boosting savings.

One of the major success of successive ANC led governments has been 60% of the budget invested in uplifting working class communities from free schools with meals, to NSFAS funded tertiary education, from social grants for 27 million people to the foundations being laid for universal healthcare through the National Health Insurance. These need to be enhanced.

We need to invest in a well-oiled developmental state that can provide working class communities and the economy, the modernised public services they need.

This must include significant investments in law enforcement to ensure we win the war against crime and corruption, including gender-based violence.

How will these be funded? First the above high impact interventions will unlock economic growth, create decent jobs and thus provide the state the taxes it needs. Second, to massively boost funding for SARS, which has seen a remarkable turnaround under President Ramaphosa, to increase tax compliance and ensure revenues due to the state are collected.

These are the key interventions needed to grow the economy, create decent jobs, reduce poverty, tackle crime and corruption, rebuild public services and set South Africa on the path to a better future that includes all of society.

These are interventions COSATU will continue to drive with the incoming ANC led 7th administration, in our bargaining councils and master plans, at Nedlac and in Parliament.

Solly Phetoe in the General Secretary of COSATU.